For immediate release
May 8, 2020
SURREY (Occupied Kwantlen, Kwikwetlem, Qayqayt, Katzie Territories): After 7 years living in their building on the 13400 block of King George Boulevard, Michelle and her partner Damion are facing an imminent eviction. They recently heard from the building’s property manager, Mohamed Mansour, that a sheriff is coming this Sunday to evict them from their home.
Their building was sold at the end of March 2020 for $3.4 million. Less than a month later, through an expedited RTB hearing, the courts granted Michelle’s landlord an order of possession allowing the property manager to evict both Michelle and her partner into the streets with a few days notice. Michelle exclaims, “It feels like a death sentence. I’ve lived here for 7 years and now they want to throw us out in the middle of a pandemic with no time to find a place! Where are we supposed to go? We’ll end up on the streets!” Even in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the state upholds the power of property over the lives of tenants.
In the same building, every one of Michelle’s neighbours is awaiting eviction. Some of them were pressured in February to sign an agreement to leave their homes by the end of April, a deal “sweetened” by the immediate offer of a month’s worth of rent and a letter of reference. The April deadline has since been pushed to June 1st due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the new termination date still brings stress and anxiety.
Even before the pandemic, finding a one bedroom apartment for $600 a month was impossible. Now Michelle and her neighbours face the threat of homelessness, caught between looming evictions and the hopeless search for housing in a time of social distancing.They are the collateral damage of property ownership, as the new landlord empties the building of all its current tenants in order to increase the value of his latest investment.
In the backdrop of this particular eviction stands the City’s massive gentrification plan for Whalley. Its City Centre Plan, which envisions a “revitalized” downtown core with King George Blvd as its main artery, opens the way for redevelopment that builds on colonial dispossession and capitalist displacement, and requires the forced removal of low-income Indigenous and working class people. Michelle’s building is in the path of this grandiose urban renewal project.
The landlord must halt the evictions of all the tenants in this building and ensure that they have a home so they can stay safe in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. To protect our homes and communities, we will keep fighting.